The Secret Santa Series by Nikki Lynn Barrett
Xmas in July
by Nikki Lynn Barrett
Official Genre of Book: Holiday Romance
The magic of Christmas has been lost to Jacob Winston. At the suggestion of his ill sister, Jacob takes a job as a Secret Santa at the mall, hoping to restore his Christmas spirit. Even that doesn’t seem to work, until a special little boy ambles up to make a very special wish…
Cheyenne Jensen is struggling to raise her two kids without the help of her ex-husband who refuses to acknowledge his daughter’s existence and doesn’t provide for the son he does. This Christmas is shaping up to be as heartbreaking as the last, until her son Ben’s kind actions lead a stranger to them.
Ah, but it’s Christmas time and the magic has begun.
When Jacob and Cheyenne meet, neither can deny their immediate attraction to one another. As situations arise that require they spend more time together, their feelings grow stronger and stronger.
With Christmas fast approaching, the pair learn what matters most in life. Now, if only they could ditch the ghost of Christmases past.
Maybe this holiday will bring some wishes come true- for everyone after all.
“I have a question to ask you.” Jacob let her go to kneel next to her son, his tone serious. “You’re the man of the house, and I need to get your permission about something.”
Ben looked at him, then at his mom, curious and confused.
“I’d like to know if it’s okay with you if I become your mom’s boyfriend. You and Desiree are an important part of her life, so if I’m to be in it, I want to make sure you’re okay with it.”
Cheyenne watched her son’s expression, waiting. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until Ben burst into tears. “Ben, honey?”
“Will you be our Daddy, too? I love you, Mr. Jacob.” Ben threw himself at Jacob, crying into his shirt. Jacob wrapped his arms around the little boy, hugging him and comforting him.
“I think being your daddy would be amazing, Ben. But to be honest, your mom and I aren’t that far into our relationship to think that way. But let me tell you this. You can call me and talk to me about anything. I know you have a dad in your life, and I don’t ever want to take his place. That wouldn’t be fair.”
Ben lifted his head, sniffling. “My daddy isn’t very nice. He doesn’t seem to like me, and he doesn’t like Desiree.”
Cheyenne wanted to cry, too. She made her way beside Ben, Jacob and Desi, who didn’t understand what was going on. “Jacob and I are taking it one day at a time, Ben. I care for him very much, but it’s a long way before thinking about forever. You have been a brave boy, and I know it’s hard for you when your dad isn’t there for you. It hurts me here.” She rubbed a hand over her heart. “But we do the best we can, right?”
Ben nodded and came over to her for a hug. “I love you, Mommy. I just want my wish to come true.” She stroked his hair, attempting to soothe him.
“What wish, Ben?” She already had an idea, of course. She just needed to hear what her son wanted.
“That you don’t have to work so hard, and we could have a Daddy that loves us. I thought that would be Jacob.” At those words, Cheyenne thought her insides would explode. This was the first time Ben admitted his wish out loud to her. He wanted so badly for a family and a dad. He wanted Jacob to be his daddy. For a little boy to have such a heartbreaking wish tore her up. She’d been wanting the same thing for so long, but Ben didn’t understand that she and Jacob weren’t there yet. They were a long way from that step.
After being mugged, Robin Sorenson is left shaken and her spirit in humanity is broken. Worse, she’s not sure how to deal with the new anxieties or who to confide in, since she’s always preached to pick oneself up and move on. Yeah, she’s been the go to girl when anyone’s had problems. Christmas is coming, and her belief in magic and miracles has faded.
Then Jonas comes back.
Jonas Aimes made a mistake when he walked away from Robin a year earlier. A big one. He’d loved her, always had and still does, but his desire to please his aging and strict parents took precedence. Back from the overseas internship they’d struggled to get him in, he plans on winning Robin back. What he didn’t count on was discovering the shell of the vivacious woman he’d loved.
Remembering her love of Christmas, Jonas pulls the holiday heartstrings. What? All is fair and love and war, right?
Twelve days, Twelve Dates.
Robin is speechless when Jonas not only refuses to leave her alone, but dares her to accept his cheesy holiday-themed challenge. Twelve dates to give him a chance to prove that he loves her and is never leaving her again.
But in the season known for miracles, can Robin find the magic needed to open her heart and faith once more … or will she forever wonder about the ghost of the Christmas past that could have been?
A smile lit up his face. “Give me twelve dates.”
Robin raised an eyebrow. “Twelve dates? What are you talking about?” Now he was just acting strange.
Kind of cute, but definitely strange.
“Twelve dates to show you just how much you mean to me. On the twelfth date, if you don’t feel like we could at least try to work things out, I’ll leave you alone. If I don’t at least give this a shot, then I’m going to have a lot of regrets.”
“Twelve dates, huh? You seriously sound like someone from one of those cheesy films they air this time of the year.” Okay, this man looked and sounded like Jonas, but his twelve dates idea made her wonder what happened to the real Jonas Aimes. Robin shifted in her seat and narrowed her eyes.
He feigned hurt. “Cheesy? Ouch. That’s a blow to the heart.”
“Twelve dates isn’t a long time to decide.” He was being serious about this, wasn’t he? Twelve dates? How in the world did he plan to try and show her anything with only twelve dates? The idea sounded cute, charming and sweet, it really did. But how did he plan to pull it off?
“Maybe for people who don’t have our history. But we’ve known each other since high school. Come on, what could it hurt?”
A lot, actually. She kept the words to herself. Despite it all, she couldn’t hide her curiosity.
“Of course, we can talk and spend time together outside of the twelve dates, so it’s not like we’re limited,” Jonas continued. He circled her palm with his thumb. “Oh, and right now doesn’t count as one of the dates.”
Robin laughed. Butterflies danced around in her belly. Good grief, what happened to her promise just a few hours ago? To focus on her own life and not get wrapped up in a man?
Okay, just because I agree to this doesn’t mean I’m changing my mind. They’re just dates. Dates with a man I love, but they’re still just dates.
“What about your family? What will they say?” she blurted.
A storm of anger built up in his eyes. “I don’t care what they say anymore. My family shouldn’t have so much sway on how I feel about you. I should have realized that a long time ago. They don’t get to choose anymore.”
Eric Jensen doesn’t need the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to know he’s made his fair share of mistakes. The reminders haunt him every day of his life, but a terrible loss becomes an eye opener this holiday season. A heartbreaking question from a young boy pushes Eric to do some serious soul searching, and helps him strive to be better.
Forgiving is the key…
Petra Cavannaugh spent the past two years growing as a person. She left her ex-boyfriend and struggled to make it on her own as a single mother. When Eric shows up at her doorstep one night just needing to see her, she wonders if he’s finally becoming the man she always wished he’d be.
The best gift could be a second chance…
As Eric shows a side to Petra she’s never seen, the two grow closer. But is forgiveness enough to take another chance on love? Eric must learn to forgive himself, and Petra has to learn to put her trust in the new Eric and not let his past dictate her future.
There are more than presents waiting to be opened. Will this Christmas finally open the two hearts sealed tightly shut?
“You’re not exhausted?” he blurted.
She let out a yawn as if on cue. “A little bit. You don’t have to sit, I was just letting you know it’s okay if you do.”
He finally sat, glad to have made a decision one way or another. But now what? How did he ever manage to win Petra over at one point? He had no people skills. He had no talking skills. Hell, what kind of skills did he have?
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Petra turned her head and laughed.
“ I’m not good at this stuff.” Eric muttered. A surge of frustration ran through him. He didn’t like her mocking his awkwardness.
Or maybe she isn’t. Chill, man.
Petra sat up. “What stuff?” Her face scrunched up in confusion.
“ Talking. Sitting. This.” He waved his hands around.
“You’re getting better.” Petra replied softly. “Something got to you today. What was it?”
Eric sighed. “When I went to talk to Adrian’s widow, her little boy asked a question that haunts me. He asked something along the lines of ‘doesn’t he love us enough to stay’? Got me thinking about Ben, Desiree and Kinley. Adrian went back to his angry ways one night and it changed his family’s world.”
“Damn.” Petra’s eyes were wide. “I’m sorry, Eric.”
“ I wonder how many nights Ben asked the same thing. He’s the only one old enough to remember and understand the things I did. He looked at me today with such disappointment and even warned me. He’s dealt with way more than a nine year old should.”
“That explains the stricken look on your face when you watched the kids.” Petra’s eyes were full of compassion and warmth.
did he have to start this conversation? Eric wished it would end. He didn’t like this exposing his feelings thing. Weird. Just weird.
Maybe it was time to go and end this strange night.
Life is full of complications, so why not have an uncomplicated arrangement between friends?
Former figure skater Caitlin Aimes doesn’t care to make life complicated. Publicly humiliated by her ex-fiancé years ago, she closes herself off to relationships and love. She never thought she’d be that girl- the one having a friends-with-benefits relationship. No complications, right?
Wrong. This holiday season, the unexpected happens, catching Caitlin and Ron off guard…
Ron Mercer lost his wife four years ago and has no plans to commit himself to another relationship. Life as a widower with two teenagers is already complicated enough. But in a world constantly changing, he finds himself in a predicament he never expected….
The arrangement they made has consequences which neither ever prepared for. Caitlin and Ron are in for a Christmas like they’d never had before.
Too bad she didn’t believe him. Kate craned her neck and scanned the room. “Caitlin’s here with her friends.” She whipped her head around to stare wide eyed at him. “Do you have a thing for her?” She raised her voice, causing several people to look their way.
“Why in the world would you think that?” Ron’s pulse raced. Did his voice crack slightly? Damn. Kate caught on, but at least for now she didn’t know the rest of the story.
“Well, that answers my question. You look so guilty. But seriously ? You and Caitlin? She’s young and so not your type.” Kate rested her hands on the table.
“Are you saying I’m old?” Ron gasped, trying to pull it off as playfully as possible.
“Umm, yeah. I kinda am.” Kate rolled her eyes. “Too old for her, anyway.”
“She’s thirty. I’m forty. Why is that too old?” Why was he even arguing this point with Kate, anyway?
“Because forty is … ancient. Thirty seems it too, but I don’t know. I can’t imagine being thirty and wanting to date a forty year old.” Kate’s lips twisted in some weird expression.
“Gee thanks, Kate,” Ron muttered. “Love your vote of confidence there.”
“Sorry, but come on! Wait, does that mean you actually like her that way? Caitlin’s so out of your
league, Dad. She’s fun. You’re … not.”
That hurt. A lot. “Why am I not fun?” Again, he avoided her comments and questions. It bothered him more than he cared to admit that his daughter didn’t think he was fun. Okay, so maybe lately, he’d been a buzzkill. But as the only parent, he had to when it came down to it.
“Sometimes you’re grouchy and mean. But stop avoiding my comments and questions. Do you seriously want to date Caitlin?”
“Would it bother you?” There it was. The ultimate question. He should have asked this ages ago, but there’d never even been a hint of a dating possibility in his life, let alone he never wanted to go that route again.
No matter where she goes, USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett hears voices in her head. Instead of calling her crazy and locking her up, her family realizes it’s just a product of being an author and allows her to write the stories so that the voices shut up.
But they don’t. And probably never will. There’s no need to lock her up, Nikki knows she’ll never escape the voices, not until each and every last story is written. And for every story she writes, about ten or more ideas pop up.
When she isn’t slaving away at her computer writing books that will probably make you cry and keep you in suspense, Nikki plots to take over the world one book at a time. What? It’s a sickness. One she can’t escape!
Books aren’t her only addiction, though. Nikki can be found making up parodies to drive her son crazy, and bantering back and forth with her husband, who somehow manages to steal her away from the fictional world she lives in all the time.
Nikki lives in Arizona with her husband and son, where she can be found using every creativity outlet she can find through music, photography, handcrafted things, and random interests that she may pick up from time to time.
If you want to learn more about the author who makes people cry for a living, check out her website